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the detailed review - isomac zaffiro
Isomac Zaffiro - Comparisons
Introduction | Overview | Out of the Box | Operation | Performance | Comparisons | Conclusions
Click for larger image

The Zaffiro was such a performer that mid way through my testing, I decided to give it the shock test - head to head with an exceptionally well dialed in La Marzocco Linea one group machine. I also compared the performance and usability of the machine to the Rancilio Silvia, the Gaggia Classic, and the Pasquini Livia (sadly, this was one of the last tests ever done head to head with the Pasquini Livia - I sold my Livia only a few weeks ago). Initially, I also tested the machine against an Isomac Venus, but the Venus' thermostat went completely wonky, and was dropped from the test.

I had a variety of testers helping me out, including some informal testers. Doing more comprehensive notes were Doug Wiebbe and Dana Leighton, and helping out more informally were Aaron DeLazzer and Craig Tillman, along with Jeanette Chan.

Times and Temperatures

First, I pitted the Isomac Zaffiro against a few other machines in terms of what it could do. Some of these results are a case of "you can tell which is better"; others are just for information purposes, and don't mean good or bad in any way - I'll leave that up to you to decide.

Time to Brew Ready (from cold start)
Isomac ZaffiroRancilio SilviaPasquini LiviaGaggia Carezza
3:162:486:531:53

As you can see from the results, the Isomac is pretty fast to heat up, but it's a false heat up - there's so much metal, you need a good extra 20 or 30 minutes to get everything toasty warm for brewing. Ditto with the Pasquini and Rancilio. The Carezza is pretty much good to go only about 5 minutes after its initial boiler ready state.

Time to Steam Ready (from brew ready)
Isomac ZaffiroRancilio SilviaPasquini LiviaGaggia Carezza
1:560:580:000:43

Here's where the Isomac suffers - almost two minutes to steam ready, and in some cases, that's being generous. The Pasquini is 0 because it is always steam ready.

Flow Rate, 10 seconds (in mm)
Isomac ZaffiroRancilio SilviaPasquini LiviaLa Marzocco Linea
84.072.493.4142.5

Flow rate doesn't mean much, except for the fact that rotary pump machines, and in particular the La Marzocco with its wide pressure infusion design gets as much as double the flow rate of consumer machines.

Measured Grouphead Temps (in celsius)
Isomac ZaffiroRancilio SilviaPasquini LiviaGaggia CarezzaLa Marzocco
40ml93.591.093.191.494.8
80ml92.789.290.087.294.2

Again, with the exception of the La Marzocco, the Zaffiro really shines in this test. At most I've seen a 2.5C or less drop in temperature over a whopping 12 ounces poured through the hot water wand. This puppy holds its temperature through a shot.

Steaming Times (in seconds)
Isomac ZaffiroRancilio SilviaPasquini LiviaGaggia CarezzaLa Marzocco
7oz18.237.823.442.512.4
23.851.233.1n/d14.7

Again, the LM machine shines here (set to 1.8BAR for the steam boiler), and the Zaffiro numbers can be misleading because of the massive ramp up time. What is surprising is that the Pasquini Livia, with the larger boiler, was actually slower than the Zaffiro.

User Results and Comments

I organized a few test groups over several months with the Isomac Zaffiro. Most of these test groups were informal, with about a half dozen shots pulled on a few different machines, and I took some notes about the comments flying around.

I should note that every tester complained about two things on the Zaffiro. First, the slightly dangerous hot water delivery was a concern to all. And every tester complained about the long warm up time from brewing to steaming.

In my test groups, Doug and Dana putting the Zaffiro against the Pasquini Livia, the Rancilio Silvia and the Gaggia Classic. In addition, Dana tried an informal test with the La Marzocco Linea. Aaron, Craig and Jeanette evaluated the Zaffiro against La Marzocco shots.

Click for larger image
The Isomac Drip Tray is very deep, and holds a lot of water
Click for larger image
It pulls out for dumping in the sink - top screen could be better quality though.

Doug's Comments:

- The Zaffiro is a great looking machine
- The shot performance on the Zaffiro was the best of the night by far, even beating the Pasquini
- I liked the milk frothing ability of the Zaffiro - it was very fast once the steam was ready.
- Seems very difficult to pull a bad shot on the Zaffiro.
- The (E61) group really sets the tone on this machine.

Dana's Comments::

- It's easily the best machine in the roundup (Dana wasn't using the Pasquini during this time - he was using the Silvia, Classic, and Isomac Super Giada).
- I find it very easy to use this machine.
- This is one of the best shots I've had in some time.
- The steam wand is a bit awkward.
- I like the very deep drip tray.
- The quality of this shot is very close to the La Marzocco's shots.
- This is a machine I'd really consider buying.

Aaron's Comments:

- I'm not big on home machines, but this group is the seller.
- I am surprised at how easy it is to use.
- I'm very impressed with the shot quality.
- Steaming performance (talking about heat up time) is very poor.
- La Marzocco edges it out, just barely.

Jeanette's comments:

- It's hard to get the portafilter in place (it is a tight fit with La Marzocco baskets; with the Isomac supplied baskets, it is easier)
- I really like the way it looks from the front, but the side is boxy.
- The shot I (just) made is one of the best ones I've ever made.
- The deep drip tray is nice so that I don't have to worry about overflowing.

Craig's Comments:

- I cannot distinguish between the La Marzocco shot and the Zaffiro shot.
- The machine looks serious.
- I find the hot water a bit difficult to use, as a left hander.
- The sputtering hot water is dangerous (he scalded his hand).
- I am disappointed you cannot easily remove the dispersion screen.

All in all, my test groups gave very high ratings to the Zaffiro on shot performance, usability, and desirabily. Steaming performance as a whole was a letdown.

Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image Click for larger image
Preinfusion / Solenoid discharge tube
Ukla pump inside the Zaffiro
The guts of a Zaffiro
Isomac Zaffiro, Isomac Millenium, and Euro2000 Junior compared.

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Introduction | Overview | Out of the Box | Operation | Performance | Comparisons | Conclusions
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